I absolutely adore my job. I am a hospice nurse. Soon I will be a Hospice Case Manager. This has to be the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life. And that includes motherhood! I sincerely like being there for people and their families at the time when the patient is transitioning toward whatever it is they personally believe is happening next in their life.
At any rate, Friday night was a full moon.
Everyone in nursing knows what this means!
Dementia and psychiatric units everywhere go haywire! The moon affects patients the same way it affects everyone. I remember back in the day working as a cashier in a convenient store. Oh my God, the nuts who would come into the store would make you nuts yourself!
Anyhow, it started a weekend from hell.
I am currently the weekend on call hospice nurse for my firm. This means I go on call from Friday afternoon through Monday morning.
I love what I do. But holy cow, this was a rough weekend!
It started with a patient who was starting to transition, or die. I got called out right after another nurse went off duty and left that facility, after having been in overtime because of the visit.
That facility apparently has nurses that are not comfortable with death, although I cannot understand that because it is a long-term care facility where death occurs on a regular basis. At any rate, I got called out just as I’d returned to my hometown from another visit 30 miles away. This patient was another 30 miles away in a different direction. I got off the freeway exit, and while I was getting back on the freeway at the entrance, I called my husband to let him know to start dinner and eat because I would be late.
I finished up with the patient, who looked as if she was sleeping comfortably, a couple of hours later. Mind you, I had started my shift exactly at 4:00 p.m. which never happens. It was now after 10:00 p.m. and I had not had anything to eat since lunch. I reached my exit off the freeway, and the phone rang again. This time, the same facility wanted me back. They insisted this patient was near death, with a very low blood pressure and almost no audible heart beat. I told my triage nurse I simply HAD to go home and eat something, and then I would be on my way.
It was then that I noticed:
the full moon!
I thought to myself, OK, this figures.
Even the triage nurse said she didn’t know if it was the family or the nurse that needed me more that night.
I ran into the house, “wolfed” down a chicken breast (no pun intended), and hit the road. I got back on the freeway and headed to the facility.
This time, I spent about three hours with the patient and family. When I went to leave, I was a little leery, but she really looked very comfortable and I figured the staff could handle it this time because there had been a shift change and the new nurse was very nonchalant about giving the morphine as needed.
I got home, changed and got into bed. Ten minutes…YES…TEN MINUTES later, the phone rang. Triage was sending me back out to the SAME facility because the patient had died and the family wanted me there.
That’s the face I SWEAR I saw…that is EXACTLY what the man in the moon looked like to ME!
This night turned into that movie, Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray kept getting up in the morning to the same song, the same place, the same people, the same events, etc.
Anyhow, I was very glad I got to go back out. The family was Hindu and practiced the death rituals that go along with that. The patient’s body was now wrapped in a beautiful golden shroud. She had a coins on her forehead and in her hands. She was laying on the floor where the family had put her after bathing her. I was very impressed with the whole thing. It was absolutely beautiful.
So, after that, my weekend just kept going and going. I left there at 6:30 in the morning and went to do an opening that lasted until noon. After that I saw another patient in the area. I went home and managed a couple of naps before bedtime. Once my head hit the pillow, however, I was only allowed about an hour of sleep before I had to go out again, this time for my second death. That family was at an assisted living facility, so I had to stay until the nurses arrived at 6:00 a.m. because the family didn’t want the body picked up until after 9:00. I went to do another visit after that and went home to rest.
During dinner, I was called out to yet another person who was dying. This time I stayed. I was not going to allow this person to die without me being present. However, after four hours, he seemed to fall into a pattern, and I felt it was safe to go home. He died about an hour later.
The full moon.
What a piece of work.